CHINA | Ombudsman Hong Kong announces results of own-motion investigations

The Ombudsman Hong Kong announced two new Investigation Reports on the Effectiveness of Mosquito Prevention and Control by Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and the Government's Arrangements for Engaging Outside Interpretation Services.

The mosquito problem is a public concern. Mosquito infestation would not only be a nuisance to daily life, but also spread deadly diseases such as dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis. The Pest Control Advisory Section and District Environmental Hygiene Offices’ (“DEHOs”) Pest Control Sections under the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (“FEHD”) are responsible for mosquito prevention and control in public places all over Hong Kong. FEHD also closely liaises with other Government departments and organisations, and provides them with technical support and training to assist in anti-mosquito work at venues and premises under the latter’s management.

There are public views that FEHD’s selected locations for setting up gravidtraps (formerly ovitraps) are incomprehensive, thereby producing inaccurate survey results. The time lag in FEHD’s release of surveillance indices makes it difficult for the public to stay on top of the latest situation. Moreover, the relatively high indices recorded in some districts in certain months as reported by the media indicated serious mosquito infestation in those districts. There are also media reports about FEHD’s improper management over the Pest Control Sections leading to ineffective mosquito prevention and control.


After a thorough investigation, the Ombudsman recommended that the FEHD:

  • appropriately consolidate the data released monthly under the Dengue Vector Surveillance  Programme to make important information clear for better warning effect;
  • review how to optimise the use of the DVS Programme data for more detailed trend analyses so as to depict the actual condition of mosquito infestation in Hong Kong more accurately;
  • specify that the Density Index announced is for reference only, and promptly categorise the index into different levels and provide a descriptor for each level, such that the surveillance data will be more explicit, uniform and comprehensible;
  • strengthen publicity of the response mechanism activated by surveillance indices to raise public awareness and participation;
  • devise a mechanism for reviewing mosquito surveillance methodologies and seek expert advice from different sectors to improve strategies and implementation of anti-mosquito work;
  • draw up appropriate administrative measures to ensure proper recording of control actions taken in survey areas with the index at alert levels for scrutiny where necessary;
  • collate and analyse mosquito-related complaints to gauge public concerns and obtain such information as the districts and locations subjected to higher risk of mosquito infestation, so that it can respond by deploying the manpower and resources of PCTs in a more systematic and efficient manner; and
  • comprehensively scrutinise and review the two OMs (i.e. the OM for Pest Control Services and the OM for Management of Pest Control Contracts), with a view to enhancing effectiveness in supervising the PCTs.


Government's Arrangements for Engaging Outside Interpretation Services

The Administrative Guidelines on Promotion of Racial Equality ("the Guidelines") promulgated by the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau ("CMAB") require that all Government bureaux and departments ("B/Ds") as well as related organisations under their purview have a responsibility to provide appropriate interpretation services to public service users where necessary. This will ensure that people who cannot communicate effectively in Chinese or English (i.e. Cantonese, Putonghua, spoken English and written Chinese and English) can enjoy equal access to public services.

At present, a support service centre for ethnic minorities, which is operated by a non-governmental organisation commissioned by the Home Affairs Department, provides general interpretation services. Apart from using the services offered by this centre, B/Ds and related organisations will by themselves acquire suitable foreign-language interpretation services in the market depending on their operational needs and circumstances.

In the past, some law enforcement departments would refer to the registered list of non-Government freelance interpreters maintained by the Judiciary Administration (“JA”) for judicial purpose (“the List”) when looking for outside interpreters who provide legal interpretation services in foreign languages and other Chinese dialects (those other than Putonghua and Cantonese). JA, however, has since August 2018, ceased making the List available to other parties and providing updates. On the other hand, the Government has not compiled information about outside interpreters who provide interpretation services in foreign languages and other Chinese dialects for B/Ds and related organisations’ reference. Nor has it set any uniform requirements for qualification of such interpreters. After JA stopped providing the List and its updates to other parties, the law enforcement departments’ arrangements for interpretation services would inevitably become less efficient.

Taking into account its findings, the Ombudsman released the following recommendations:

  • coordinate the establishment of a central database of outside foreign-language interpreters;
  • explore and formulate measures for efficient selection of outside interpreters and service procurement. For example, the central database could contain details of the interpreters such as the languages they can interpret, their experience, areas of specialisation and schedule of availability. CMAB should also explore the feasibility of requiring the interpreters to sign a uniform declaration of confidentiality and agreement on code of practice in advance;
  • explore the feasibility of collecting and documenting information about any violation of confidentiality requirement or code of practice by outside interpreters in the database when being engaged by B/Ds and related organisations. CMAB should also establish a mechanism for follow-up action;

  • remind B/Ds and related organisations to explore the feasibility of providing remote interpretation services and

  • collate data on the needs of public service users for interpretation services in other Chinese dialects to facilitate  the Government’s review and planning in this regard. In the long run, CMAB should consider including in the central database the information about interpreters providing interpretation services in other Chinese dialects to assist B/Ds and related organisations in engaging outside interpreters for such services.


Source: Office of the Ombudsman Hong Kong, China

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